Palo Alto College




American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions


Jesus J. Reyes Jr. Fall 2000
History 1302 Hines


-Coahuiltecan IndianAs I open my eyes and as my mind starts to record the beginning of a new day, I hear the songs of a beautiful morning, just as I've awaken in the bosom of mother earth. Last night, this environment played their songs and their drum and that of all my relatives were singing. Los Coyotes, El Tecolote, y las Ranas. And like last night, this morning and the other of my relatives are speaking to me. Small Reins, Ravens, Hawks, and Roosters. That night as a guardian of a ceremony and of our peoples we were able to receive of the ceremonial prayers as well. As part of this ceremony and sitting at this location of Applewhite, Applewhite I can't help but think of the rich history of my people and of the changes we have taken up, mostly by force, to keep our families going. Because of this attitude we continue as strong peoples with a great respect toward our families even under our current label as Hispanics, but little by little, this seems to be changing us in todays society.

Coahuiltecan IndianAs I look at the ground that I stand on and wonder how we have come from who we were to who we are. This place I'm talking about is very special to my families. We have been gathering here for years now. But, more importantly, we've been here for thousands and thousands of years. This place was researched by anthropologist that have documented findings that date back ten thousands of years. Coahuiltecos as the Spaniards called us grouped our clans and families from the region of three Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila. South Texas as well as up into Nacogdoches, Texas our People, Tap Pilam, lived in the immediate region of the upper and lower Yana Wana, better know as the San Antonio river, were documented. Some historians say that we have good documentation and in some cases even better than some Federal recognized tribes. This project brings sadness to my heart for my families, as I reflect the past struggles of my people. But I must step forward in this way so my future decendants will not parish. But come to think about it as my uncle put it, "Six flags have flown over Yana Wana and six more can fly and we will still be here."

This place is known as the failed Applewhite project. To my people it's a part of our traditional homelands of the greater South Texas and Northeastern Mexico region.
Watson Family 1904 Red stone house today
Three miles from this location, there sits a red stone house with a hay barn and also several yard from there, sits an old school house which is referred to as a teachery in 1910. Further north from that teachery is a newer school house.

That road that splits the house and the teachery is the old Camino Real. Most Historians will share that, but will stop there. This Camino Real was given that name by the Spaniards because they had used it to get from Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) to San Antonio. This was actually a trail that the Spaniards found that was thousands of years old. This newly found trail was the migration pattern used by Native Americans, later to be Known as the Coahuiltecan Indians. The red stone house was built in 1904 by Mr. Jim Watson who purchased the land from the Martinez Families, which was part of the Spanish land grant. Today, paved between the house and the teachery is the old Camino Real which is now referred to as Pleasanton Road. South of that location about 50 yards is highway 1604 or the Anderson Loop. This house served as homestead for Jim Watson and his family, which were his wife and their daughter Thelma.Old school house ORIGINS:


According to Fred Martinez. The thriving community of Thelma, Texas is geographically located in the center of the Dionicio Martinez land grant. Thelma was founded as an official community in 1904 by the development of a post office at "the Green Store" but the community was founded by settlers in the immediate area as early as 1834. Dionicio Martinez, as a citizen of San Fernando de Bexar (San Antonio, Texas) petitioned for a land grant under the Mexican government on the Medina River for colonization. Under the Mexican Constitution of March 24, 1825, citizens were allowed to petition for known unsettled lands of the state. This law developed the Empresario system of land distribution. Through the petition system Dionicio Martinez finally recieved his land grant on July 24, 1834. (Martinez p. ) As I mention early on Mr. Jim Watson purchased one acre of this Martinez Land Grant. It is unknown to me who the seller was but I speculate that it was one of the member of the Martinez family.


During the early years of the store the community referred to it as the "Green store". This was because Mr. Watson had painted it green.
Mr. Watson had applied to the Postal Service to establish a post office. During which time he named the town after his daughter Thelma. Thelma, after graduating from High school started teaching in a small one room house, across from the red stone house, called the teachery. As the years went by the new school house was built where all of the surounding families children would attend. In the photo below is some of my family members, Thelma Watson, a second teacher Mary Ernst, and children from the community. Thelma Watson and class of 1928



"FOUNDING FATHERS": My families exsistance on this land is of most importance to this area as the community of Thelma, Texas. This is where my grand parents grew up. My family still resides in this Community. Most people like to talk about historic sites and it's events. You will hear most stories that are great stories but there is one that will no longer be ignored. My family being from this small community will serve as this projects' purpose. The founding fathers most people will say are the people that established the name of Thelma. But this is not about a family, it's about families of Thelma. When the Europeans arrived to this land, YES, including the Spaniards, they documented most stories which involved themselves mostly, but the one thing that my brother says is that the best thing that the Spanish ever did for our people is the documentation of our people. But even at that, they fail to share those story. Which I hope people will start to include in their research of their families past. The founding fathers start with the decendence of the "People of the Earth", Tap Pilam. Without these families the Watsons would not have purchased that one acre of land. As well, as the other white families that came before the Watsons.


ECONOMY: The economy of the area prior to the researched information in this project (Thelma 1904) was relatively poor. Each family provided for it survival. In a story taken from his manuscript written for Fred Martinez, is of the memories of my tio Roberto A. Reyes from the turn-of-the-century in Thelma.




"All around Thelma, Losoya and Cassin lived farmers. They had small farms but they could make a living. The farms were worked with mules, the tractor was not known yet. But the mules were used to plow and cultivate the fields. The farmers raised good crops, thus making a living. In those years it was easy for farmers, as it rained frequently. In April, we had showers almost daily. They called them "April showers". Almost every cloud that passed would leave us a little shower. Those showers were good for the crops. But the field and pastures were a sight worth looking at. Lots of flowers of every kind, especially the poppy flowers of red, white and yellow. There were Texas blue bonnets and lots of others I don't know the names of. The principal crops were corn, cotton and sorghum, though all of the farmers always had a patch of watermelon and cantaloupe. They had to take them to San Antonio to sell".


The stories of my ancestors prove that of a hard working farmers that when harvesting their crops would travel to sell. This was the way of life for my people that had been taught by their ancestors as mission Indians which had to care for their families year round. This way of life excluded an education through out the years. So this was the exitence of entrepreneurist that the white families so well displayed about. According to my grandfather Miguel Reyes Jr. " I remember that I would have to leave school in April to do my part in the family farm simply to survive that year. Also he stated "That my dad had little-to-no education himself to know better." Miguel Reyes farm 1914


According to the daughter of Thelma Watson, Mrs. Alma Midgett stated that Mr. Jim Watson, her grandfather opened up a grocery store, which was later painted Green, and work it out of the front portion of the the house. The house was built in 1904 and as time passed Jim added to the store which, lasted only until the early 1920's When Jim Watson moved from Mexico to what is now Thelma he built his house and store on an acre of land. By the time Mr. Watson had died he owned about 650 acres of land which had been previously the Martinez Spanish Land Grant. According to Alma Midgett, Mr. Watson had extended credit to the surrounding families with a lien on their land and if they could not pay it, would take their land but allowed them to stay on it and farm it, which they called tenant farming. Now, this occured in the early 1920's nine years before the Great Depression. The undercurrent of the depression was taking it toll on my families and neighbors which also effected Mr. Watson who had to close his store but leaving him 650 acres of my ancestors land. The economic status changed with the times but never enough to be establish as a town. Therefor, Thelma continues as a small community which eventually phased out farming to a certain degree. Most of the families started to work in town (San Antonio) as it got easier to commute to and from with the automobile.
Click on map to see larger view.


Applewhite Map A Vision into the Past, Mike Mecke



Campbell, T.N. and Campbell, T.J., 1996 Indian Groups Associated with Spanish Mission of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Center for Archaeological Rescearch The University of Texas at San Antonio Special Report, No. 16, Second Printing.
This information helped me identify the missions and their role at the beginning, which helped developed the introduction.


Martinez, Fred Losoya-Thelma Journal: Vol. I No. 1 to Vol. II No. 2
County of Bexar State of Texas :Losoya-Thelma Historical Assoc.
This is a compilation of stories from My families and people of Thelmas' community


Reyes Jr., Miguel. Personal interview. 8 Nov. 2000


Midgett, Alma Personal interview. 26 Oct. 2000


Swanton R., John, Linguistic Material from the tribes of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Washington: United States Government printing Office, 1940.


Kirkpatrick, Larry. Addresses.
A brief overview of the Coahuiltecan traditional area.


Hernandez, Ray Personal interview. 30 Oct. 2000


Vasquez, Ramon Personal interview. 3 Nov. 2000

  Garcia, Bartholom`e 1760 Manual para Administrar los Santos Sacramentos de Penitencia, Eucharistia, Extrema-uncion, Matrimonio...Mexico.


Vasquez Y Sanchez, Ramon Personal interview. 1 Nov. 2000



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